In Store: An Interview with Hamlet of Hamlet's Vintage
When it comes to seeking out collaborators, there's an inevitable ranking of possibilities. What actually happens tends to fall closer to the middle of those rankings. But, according to Google, you can make a fine batch of Mississippi moonshine out of potatoes and a little tomato paste. It's always good to shoot for the stars, but make the best out of whatever situation.
It was actually kind of jarring in how open Hamlet, Owner of Hamlet's Vintage, was to the opportunity to work together. His West Village store was a top choice with its selection of finely curated leathers and knits from the 60's on through the 80's.
When I made it downtown to select the the garments, I took the chance to warm my hands from the randomly nippy weather and chat a bit about the store's beginnings. Amid a pumping 90's club kid playlist, we sat down and spoke about how things got started and his sentiments on vintage culture going forward.
R: How did you get started in fashion in general?
H: My mom was a designer in the 70's and 80's. Fashion, textiles and the whole design processes were always surrounding me.
R: What about selling vintage?
H: Well, I was working for a European design company in the early 2000's as a vintage researcher and buyer. One year they wanted me to open a pop up shop in Soho featuring some vintage. This was before everyone was doing pop up shops. It was only supposed to last for a few weeks, but it ended up staying for months because it was doing so well. That pushed me to open my own store in 2007 on Bleeker Street. I moved to this latest location in 2014.
R: Do you notice any major changes in the vintage scene between then and now?
H: Now, people often want exactly what the mass produced stores are calling vintage. If H&M starts to offer a 90's shirt with ruffles and calls it vintage, people will come in looking for the same thing.
Also, customers have a very different association with what vintage actually is. I consider the term vintage to mean 1930's through 1980's. After the 80's, there is no defining style to pinpoint a decade. Like, what would you say is the defining aspect of 90's fashion?
R: True, other than maybe baggier Hip Hop style, it is pretty hard to say something is 90's... What are the hottest pieces in your store right now?
H: It's time for outerwear. It's New York and people like to layer with knits and leathers. Because of our location, we get many visitors from all over Europe and Asia. They usually know good quality when they see it and are willing to pay for it.
R: What do you think is the impact of vintage menswear on the NYC fashion scene?
H: As far as design, the design influence is all over the place. I can't tell you how many designers come in here for research. Quite a few times I've went to view their collections and seen how direct of an influence the garments they borrowed made on their design. Just look at the new Gucci menswear line; it's so late 60's/70's influenced.
In the streets, people are also mixing eras. There are no limits.
R: Yeah, I'm not mad at it. Sometimes I get tired of everyone doing 80's. It's cool to see the extravagance and experimentation of mixing current fashion with the 70's gear.
H: Also, there is the sustainability issue. Vintage is a good way to fight what these mass production stores are doing. Most of these fast fashion and mass productions stores push out cheaply made clothing that will rip on you within a few months. Then the fabric ends up in the trash. These vintage pieces come from a time when the craftsmanship of the garments allowed them to last. Also, when you pick up vintage, you know there are limited quantities around. It adds a more unique element to the outfit.
R: What would you say the hardest thing about the business?
H: I think it is trying to convey the difference between thrift and vintage. I think the concepts have melded together a bit in the minds many shoppers. We're not a thrift store. We don't take donations and just put what we get up on the racks. I go buy these items personally. Every item on the rack has been researched and placed there for a reason.